The Life of Johannes Vermeer

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The life of Johannes Vermeer consisted of creating relatively small paintings of everyday life that were enhanced through the use of a camera obscura. Learn about Vermeer's artistic life with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

Part of the Video Series: Art History Genres
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Video Transcript

Hi. Dr. Betty Brown here. The topic is Vermeer. Johannes Vermeer, or Jan Vermeer, is one of my favorite artists. He created images that are so right, so perfectly crafted that they almost make you gasp when you see them. Vermeer was a Dutch artist. He lived in the 17th century. That's right the time of Bernini in Italy and Velasquez in Spain and Rembrandt, his countryman. He created small paintings, for the most part, of everyday scenes, of people doing everyday activities- like a geographer looking at the globe, thinking about mapping; a woman weighing a pearl; a girl, just simply looking at the artist with a pearl earring. And if that sounds familiar, it's because there's been a fiction book and a fiction film about Vermeer, called "The Girl with the Pearl Earring". And Vermeer used an optical device that was the grandfather of the photographic camera. He used the camera obscura to create his images. So the reality and the very precise spatial configurations that he gets were helped by this tool that he used; kind of like using a ballpoint pen rather than a feather dipped in ink. You can write faster with the ballpoint. Vermeer could draw the spatial configurations more rapidly using a camera obscura. But what he did with those mechanically-enhanced drawings was to create a sense of quiet and beauty that has never been surpassed.

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